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September 23, 2020 1M6A6286_400.jpgThe way older adults carry out their daily routines, interact with one another, and receive support has been drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The mental and physical health of seniors has been impacted because of the anxiety and fear of contracting the virus, as well as the lack of meaningful in-person interactions with one another.

Dahlia*, a client of Baycrest’s Day Treatment Centre program, explains how the pandemic has taken a toll on her physical health: “I have Parkinson’s, and how I feel is impacted by how much exercise I get. It can be really uncomfortable for me if I don’t get the exercise I need. When I was unable to attend exercise programs, my muscles were just not functioning well, and the longer I was not exercising, the harder it was for me to do it.” 

Baycrest knew that the daily needs of older adults like Dahlia needed to be addressed. To support healthy aging and mental wellbeing in our community during COVID-19, Baycrest launched a virtual component to our established Day Treatment Centre, which adapted the Day Treatment Centre’s in-person offerings. Now, throughout the community, social workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists are supporting the physical, mental and emotional health of older adults through virtual group exercise classes and one-on-one therapy sessions.

The Virtual Day Treatment Centre program engages with each client and their family to assess their needs and build a plan based on their individual requirements. The plan identifies priority areas through which a customized schedule of programming is created.

Shirley Lee, Occupational Therapist at the Day Treatment Centre, explains, “Since March, so many older adults were cut off from programs and services they had access to before, which was essential to support their physical and emotional well-being. It is important for us to reach out and connect with them during this difficult time, and we are proactively supporting older adults through our Virtual Day Treatment Centre program.”

Like many other clients, Dahlia was relieved when she heard that Baycrest had started a Virtual Day Treatment Centre program. She says, “I was delighted. It was like hearing from an old friend. The classes are perfect; they have a very well-rounded program, especially for those who use a mobility aid. They listen to each person and give us enough time to tell our stories completely. We get the attention we need.”

Lee says, “The most important need we are catering to here is the emotional one, arising from social isolation – when older adults join, they feel they are being cared for, and they find hope.”

There is a lot of preparation behind each virtual class to ensure the comfort and safety of clients. Baycrest’s Telemedicine Rapid Implementation team (TRIM) has stepped up to assist older adults in using the technology and to ensure equitable access to the Virtual Day Treatment Centre program. Volunteers contact clients before each class to provide assistance regarding Zoom. They are also there throughout the class to support older adults and troubleshoot along the way.

Baycrest continues to use the innovations and technologies it has created to reach older adults beyond the campus and in the community, providing respite to caregivers and helping older adults at greater risk for isolation. The hard work of staff and community members has enabled Baycrest to launch this important program and respond to the changing needs of older adults.

To learn more about Baycrest’s Virtual Day Treatment Centre program, click here.

*A pseudonym has been used to protect the privacy of our client.
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